If it seems like finding a camping spot along the Mirror Lake Highway during the busy summer season or a site at Arches National Park just about any time is difficult, don't be surprised.
A recently released study by The Outdoor Foundation sponsored by The Coleman Co. said that 38 million Americans, about 13 percent of the population over age 6, went camping at least once last year.
While that might seem like a lot of folks, who are also contributing the economy by purchasing camping gear, groceries, firewood and gasoline at gateway communities near camping spots, the report didn't contain all good news.
Participation declined from 2011, the last time the scientific survey of 42,000 Americans ages 6 and older was completed. In that year, 42.5 million Americans, or 15 percent of the U.S. population, camped.
What has to be even more concerning to the outdoor industry is that young adults lost the largest number of participants, down from 17 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2012. That means many younger people are abandoning outdoor activities.
Still, those who put together the survey tried to put a positive spin on its results.
“The American Camper Report shows that camping lost 4.5 million participants, but those that still camp are an avid bunch, camping more frequently and traveling farther to their destinations,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “By understanding the research in this report, the outdoor industry and other stakeholders will be better equipped to engage both campers and non-campers to initiate a massive increase in camping participation.”
Robert Marcovitch, president and chief executive officer of Coleman, which is one of the nation's largest manufacturers of outdoor equipment, said using the information gathered is important to its business.
“The market insights we gain from the American Camper Report are vital to Coleman's ability to stay in front of emerging market trends and new outdoor activities,” he said. “Our continuing partnership with The Outdoor Foundation on this annual project provides Coleman with the knowledge we need to create innovative and exciting gear for all outdoor enthusiasts.”
According to a recent press release, the report details camping participation and provides data and analysis on camping trends throughout the United States. For the first time, the report also takes an in-depth look at the buying behaviors of camping participants to provide insights about practices and preferences.
Among the report's major findings were:
Among adult campers, more females than males participated in RV and cabin camping. More males enjoyed tent and no shelter camping.
The Mountain Region has the highest camping participation rate.
Sixty-two percent of campers ages 16 and over are married or living with a domestic partner.
Eighty-seven percent of campers participate in multiple outdoor activities.
Seventy-four percent of participants camped in a public campground.
The average camper went on 5.8 camping trips, up from 5.0 trips in 2011.
Participants traveled a mean of 200.7 miles away from home to camp, up from 190.6 miles in 2011.
Forty-four percent of campers plan their trips at least one month in advance.
Seventy-eight percent of adult participants camp with friends.
Hiking is the most popular activity to participate in while camping.
Propane or liquid fuel was the most popular purchase during the past year.
More than half of all campers rarely or never buy camping items for someone other than themselves.
Sixty percent of current adult campers participated in regular outdoor activities between the ages of 6 and 12, compared to just 25 percent of non-campers.
The most cited reason for reducing the number of camping trips is a lack of time due to work and family commitments.
Campers are planning an average of 5.5 trips next year, an increase from last year's 4.3 planned trips.
Eighty-one percent of participants plan to go on three or more camping trips in the next year.